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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 88 (May 23, 2006)

Monday, May 15: First day back at my desk and I look like something out of Phantom of the Rue Morgue. My right eye is completely red. I attribute it to overindulgence in grappa on Saturday night and two hours' sleep that night because I woke up with it on Sunday morning as the wine group was flying back to Toronto. Took my eye to my doctor who says it's a broken blood vessel and will heal by itself in a week. Great. This evening I have a Grapes for Humanity Dinner at the Four Seasons and have to stand up in front of 60 people and tell them how we are spending the funds we raise tonight. May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, owner of Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, is the guest of honour and has supplied the wines. We start off with Nicolas Feuillatte Brut before sitting down to:

Birch Syrup Glazed Wild Salmon, Dungeness Crab and Apple Salas with 1999 Le Bernadotte (a property purchased by Pichon Lalande)

Confit of Cornish Hen & Foie Gras Terrine, Truffled Mache Lettuce, Roasted Honey Mushrooms with 2001 Réserve de la Comtesse

Herb Roasted Rack of Ontario Lamb, Wild Leeks, Spring Peas and Fiddle Heads with 1988 Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande

Artisan Quebec Farmhouse Cheeses with Rhubarb Jelly, Walnut Crisp with Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 1975

Strawberry Shortcake with Bitter Chocolate sauce with Château Suidiraut 1999

The 1975 Pichon was amazing – still very much alive with mellow tannins. I have a couple of bottles of 1975 claret in my cellar since that was my son Guy's birth year. Time to open them with him.

  Pinot the Wonder Dog

Tuesday, May 16: Still ploughing through the accumulation of emails. A woman at Restoration Hardware tells me that her father is about to open a winery in Northumberland, the gateway to Prince Edward County. A brave man. Thought I'd include a photo of Pinot the Wonder Dog at this juncture.

Dinner: Henry of Pelham Rosé with curried chicken.

Wednesday, May 17: Doug Towers and David Lawrason came over for another tasting. A lot of 2005 whites which are showing very well, but the wine that really bowled me over not only for the quality but for the price was Stoney Ridge Chardonnay Old Vines 1997
Colour: coppery gold
Nose: mature, butterscotch, marzipan
Taste: ripe, intense, dried peach, toast, orange flavours; full on the palate like a grand old white Burgundy; long, long finish
Style: white, dry, full-bodied
Drinkability: now
Price: $59.95

For dinner: A bottle of Henry of Pelham Non-Oaked chardonnay 2005 with Spaghetti Carbonara.

Thursday, May 18: I had a phone call this morning from a journalist in London who is working on a story for the Sunday Times about John Riley. John was a friend of mine in London in the 1960s. He was a dentist who had a show business clientele including The Beatles and Roman Polanski (John made the teeth for Polanski's film Dracula). The journalist wanted to know about John's connection with The Beatles because all the books say that he was the person who introduced them to LSD. At the time John was living with a Canadian woman I knew called Cindy Bury who was the Bunny Mother at the London Playboy Club. In 1966 John, Cindy and I flew to Barcelona, where our mutual friend Bruce Balaban was producing a movie called The Texican, starring Audie Murphy and Broderick Crawford. (I used to drink with Audie Murphy, the most decorated American solider in World War II. He eventually committed suicide. I'll never forget the line he said. "I've been tired ever since the war.") John, Cindy and I were all meant to have bit parts in the film but I was working for BBC radio and had to get back to London before I could participate in the movie. But John Riley played the part of a stage coach driver and they dubbed his voice and made him sound squeaky. While we were in Barcelona someone – and I believe it was John – slipped LSD into Cindy's and my coffee. I had a nightmare walk around Barcelona convinced I was being pursued by Nazi storm troopers... The journalist wanted to track John down because, as the man alleged to have turned The Beatles on to LSD, he single-handedly turned on a generation. I lost contact with John but when I got married in 1971 I invited Cindy to the wedding. She turned up looking absolutely gorgeous but she must have been on something very strong because when my then-wife greeted her in her wedding dress, Cindy look at her and said: "And who are you, pray?" ...But it was John Riley with whom I shared my first cellar of red Bordeaux. John, my old friend Bernard Silver and I, all put in £200 and we bought several cases of claret that were stored in the basement of Bernie's office building in King's Cross...

Recorded my 680 NEWS pieces and dropped into the Summerhill Vintages liquor store to choose Italian wines for a corporate dinner tasting later in the month. I was surprised at how few Chiantis were available, lots of Amarones and Valpolicellas and a few expensive Barolos. While I was there I happened on a small tasting of Argentinean wines – Altos Las Hormigas Bonarda Colonia Las Liebres 2005 and Malbec Mendoza 2005. Coincidentally, I'll be dining with the producer tonight at Crush. Antonio Morescalchi is a partner in the winery. Antonio lives in Florence and when he criticised his father's homemade wine he was invited to do better. Secretly, he asked his friend, Alberto Antonini, the enologist at Col d'Orcia in Montalcino, to help him. Antonio's father was so impressed with the wines that he put up the money to finance Antonio's winery in Argentina. Las Hormigas means "the ants" – a stylized ant is the company logo. "The place is full of gourmet ants," says Antonio. "They only eat the young vines." In addition to the two wines I tried at the Summerhill store we also had the 2004 Malbec Reserva, the 1999 Malbec Reserva and the Altos De Medrano 1997 Vina Hormigas Malbec Reserva. All richly extracted, fruit-driven wines with good structure.

Friday, May 19: Today, a big tasting of general list wines in the LCBO lab. An awful lot of dreary stuff. I can't imagine why they would buy some of these wines. Of the 50-odd wines I tasted I only gave four the equivalent of 87 points (**** on my marking system). Deborah and I dined with Margaret Swaine and Bill Siegal, who live around the corner. They also invited their neighbours Myra and David. Bill had brought back fresh lobsters from Nova Scotia. Margaret has an amazing cellar and pulled out the good stuff:

  • Meo-Camuzet Hautes Côtes de Bourgogne Blanc 1999
  • William Fèvre Chablis Bourgos 1999
  • Pierre Ponnelle Hospices de Beaune Mazis-Chambertin 1978 Cuvée Madeleine Collignon
  • Louis Latour Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St. Jacques 1978
  • Domaine L'Heritier-Guyot Vougeot Les Cras 1995
  • Voubourg Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive 2001

A very enjoyable evening.




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